Monday, January 24, 2011

And the award for the most unsurprising news of the week goes to...

...the Turkel Commission! (Applause, presenting of the bouquet, tearful walk down the runway, etc.)

The Turkel Commission, in case you don't recognize the name, is the panel set up by the Israeli government to "investigate" last May's assault by the Israeli military on the Mavi Marmara, one of a flotilla of six ships then attempting to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine passengers - eight Turks and one Turkish-American - were killed and several more wounded.

After carefully considering all the Israeli evidence offered by Israeli government officials and Israeli military officials, this Israeli-government-established panel found that the Israeli soldiers (and therefore the Israeli government and the Israeli military) acted entirely lawfully. What's more,
[t]he Israeli investigation also found that Israel's three-year blockade of Gaza, which the ship was trying to broach, does not violate international law.
Put more simply, once again the accused have investigated themselves and declared themselves not guilty.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the inquiry.

"I hope all those who rushed to judgment against Israel and its soldiers will read this report and learn the truth about what happened," Netanyahu said. "The truth is that our soldiers were defending our country — and defending their very lives."
Indeed, the panel asserted that the soldiers' lives had been in danger - even though, somehow, pure coincidence (or God's will) no doubt, it was only passengers who were killed. Moreover, the commission claimed to have looked at 133 individual cases in which soldiers used force, including 16 involving shooting to kill, and found that in every single case the soldiers had "acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence." Geez, you'd think they were cops.

The Turkish government, which had earlier released its own findings, rejected the report, as did Israeli Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, who noted that the report is based entirely on the statements of the same people who ordered and carried out the attack.
"The Commission was not granted the power to investigate the detailed circumstances in which nine were killed, which was the primary motivation behind the Turkish and international demand for the establishment of a commission of inquiry."
She said the commission report "lacks any value."
Israeli human rights group Gisha also criticized the Turkel Commission's conclusions.

"No commission of inquiry can authorize the collective punishment of a civilian population by restricting its movement and access, as Israel did in its closure of Gaza," Executive Director Sari Bashi told AOL News. "A primary goal of the restrictions, as declared by Israel, was to paralyze the economy in Gaza and prevent its residents from leading normal lives."
In September, a UN Human Rights Council inquiry charged that the Israeli attack was “clearly unlawful” and "demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence." Now, as I said shortly thereafter,
[a]dmittedly, the Human Rights Council has a somewhat spotted reputation and in some cases, especially as it relates to its member states, a rather tenuous relationship with hard truth.
Even so, the US was the only member of the Council to vote against accepting the report - and, significantly, in doing so, offered no criticism of its contents.

The Human Rights Council report is separate from the four-member investigating committee set up by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which has yet to issue its own findings.

Footnote: The Gisha site has an interesting little game called "Safe Passage" which points out the legal and bureaucratic means Israel uses to restrict movement between Gaza and the West Bank in pursuit of a policy of "separation," using quotes from Israeli laws, regulations, and court filings. It's an interesting experience.

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